Gas prices top news story, survey finds

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NEW YORK -- More than half of all Americans said that rising prices at the gasoline pump commanded the most attention in looking at the news in 2007, a survey said Wednesday.

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press said that 52% had followed the story very closely. April's shootings at Virginia Tech was the second highest-interest news story of the year, with 45% telling Pew in April that it followed the story closely. Other top stories included late July's deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis, October's wildfires in California and the situation in Iraq.

The Virginia Tech shootings gathered the most coverage in a single week of any story for the year, with Pew counting that 51% of the media's time ad attention for the week of April 15 went to the shootings. The only story that came close to that in a single week over the course of year was the California wildfires and the Iraq policy debate, which each garnered about 37% of the week's coverage.

The higher cost of gasoline, while tops among news consumers in terms of interest, didn't receive that much coverage in any given week. In early May, gasoline prices competed for the media's attention with Iraq policy and the war itself as well as immigration.

Also heavily covered, although not resonating as much among Americans, was September's release of the Iraq status report. The Iraq war itself was the most closely followed story of the week for 18 of the first 23 weeks in 2007 but only 11 times in the next 23 weeks ending in mid-December. Of the last five weeks, the 2008 campaign has been the most closely followed story three times while the Omaha mall shooting and oil prices topped the list two other weeks.

Pew's survey is done weekly among 1,000 Americans with a sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.
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